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Private eyes: They’re watching you

I love Hall and Oates’ music. I always have.

I don’t admit it to too many people, but I like singing “Maneater” with the car radio cranked up as high as it will go.

The smooth sound of that saxophone coupled with Darryl Hall’s and John Oates’ rhythm and soul transport me to high school days lounging by the pool in the summer time.

In fact, I love their music so much I have embarrassed myself a few times with stoplight singing at the top of my lungs. Belting out the words to the 1980 classic “You Make My Dreams”, I’ve found my audience in the next lane laughing hysterically.

There was a time when I wouldn’t admit my appreciation for songs like “Private Eyes.” I might sing silently to myself words, “Private eyes; they’re watching you; they see your every move,” ending it with a woo hoo or two.

Ironically, those words took on new meaning when I discovered my secret appreciation for Hall and Oates has been exposed, thanks to Facebook.

In recent weeks, much has been made about the information the popular social networking Web site shares. Maligned for its complicated system of privacy controls, Facebook announced Wednesday an easier way for users to safeguard their information.

I use the site often and enjoy keeping in touch with family and friends. I’ve never been too concerned about privacy because I don’t put much personal information on the site.

Imagine my shock Wednesday when I discovered that Facebook was sharing more than the information I post intentionally. They were also sharing my peculiar music listening habits.

I wouldn’t have known this had I not heard a co-worker exclaim, “Whoa, that’s kinda creepy,” as she looked up from her keyboard.

Like me, she is a fan of Pandora.com an Internet radio site. When Pandora plays a song, it displays links to information about the song.

For the first time Wednesday, my co-worker noticed a new message. It said, “Your friend Cassandra likes this song too.” My co-worker was taken aback.

I, too, was shocked when I realized there were also links to all of her other Facebook friends detailing their music listening habits. I was only one click away from being outed as a Hall and Oates fan.

Discovering this cozy relationship between Facebook and Pandora, I had the urge to go to my computer and expunge my account with both companies.

After all, what other bits of information are being shared?

Poking around, I discovered that every post I make, every picture I download, even my responses to other friends’ comments could be used by Facebook.

Of course in today’s world, deleting one Facebook account will not offer me much anonymity when I share information about myself each time I use a credit card, make a cell phone call and log onto another Internet site.

So, how is this different from living in a small town, where everybody seems to know everything about everyone else? My childhood in population 900 Carrolton, Ala., and my life now among the other 18,000 of you bears this out. News travels fast.

I learned while growing up in that tiny Alabama town that you never said or did anything you didn’t want your mother to know about — because she was going to find out before you got home.

In the increasingly shrinking world of the Internet, the rules are pretty much the same. Don’t think there isn’t anyone watching.

After all, those private eyes are watching you …

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of the Natchez Democrat. He can be reached 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.